282. Telegram From the Department of State to the Liaison Office in Peking1

294655. Subject: Briefing the PRC on U.S.-Soviet Talks on Conventional Arms Transfers.

1. U.S. and Soviet officials will meet in Washington on December 14 to discuss prospects for cooperation in limiting conventional arms transfers. The U.S. side will be represented by PM Director, Leslie Gelb, and the Soviet side by Ambassador Khlestov, Chief of MFA’s Treaty and Legal Department. Talks will be taking place at U.S. initiative and are motivated by our concern that U.S. efforts to limit arms transfers abroad will be undercut unless the USSR and other major international suppliers also agree to restrain their transfers. The Soviets appear to appreciate that this question has a bearing on U.S.–Soviet relations, but they are approaching the subject with great caution and we cannot predict whether they can be drawn into a constructive dialogue.

2. Given the PRC’s suspicions that the U.S. is all too prone to deal with the USSR, at the expense of others, we think it important to give the Chinese advance notice of the talks and their purpose. In particular, we wish to stress that the talks are an obvious corollary to our own arms transfer policy and, if successful, would limit the potential for Soviet opportunism. In addition, we want to make clear that the talks with the Soviets, and possibly with other powers, will not be used to pressure the PRC to join an international arms control regime. Obviously, we would welcome Chinese cooperation, but we do not expect it at this stage.

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3. Accordingly, USLO should approach the Foreign Ministry at an appropriate level to make the following points, stressing that we do not intend any publicity or widespread briefings of other countries:

(A) U.S. and USSR will shortly begin talks in Washington at the assistant secretary-level to determine whether there is any prospect of complementing U.S. arms transfer guidelines by similar restraints on the part of other international arms suppliers.

(B) The talks are taking place at U.S. initiative, and the U.S. does not know whether there is any prospect for Soviet cooperation. The U.S. will stress, however, that there are limits on our willingness to take unilateral measures.

(C) If successful, such talks could enhance our prospects for international restraints on arms transfers, thereby reducing the potential for Soviet opportunism.

(D) Obviously, we would welcome Chinese cooperation in this field, but our talks are not conditioned on this. If the Soviets seek to tie any agreement to Chinese cooperation, we will reject such an effort as inappropriate.

(E) We will keep the PRC informed of any significant progress in the talks.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850056–1764. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Sent for information Priority to the White House. Drafted by William Gleysteen (EA); cleared by Harry Thayer (EA/PRCM), Alan Romberg (S/P), Priscilla Clapp (PM), Shulman (S/MS), William Luers (EUR), and Lowell Fleischer (S/S–O); and approved by Richard Holbrooke (EA).